SPRING HILL — Beyond the door of a blink-and-you-missed-it little shop on the edge of Spring Hill's Four Corners, first-time customers are amazed at the overloaded shelves of playthings, classic comic books, absurd bobbleheads and other collectibles at Karran Toys & Comics.
The atmosphere is a cheerful match, with chattering banter and unstifled chuckling — in short, a place of fun.
"We're getting kids back to reading comic books, and we're for adults who want to be kids again," said Rick Karran, 45, who has owned the 24-year-old shop since August.
"Playing and laughter bring us together," said Chris Johnson, a part-time staffer, who touts the educational principles of comic books, the psychology of play and the sociology of collecting.
Johnson, 49, said he learned to read from Spiderman and Batman comic books and to appreciate art.
"They allow you to live a fantasy world, and safely," he said. "Comic books allow kids to imagine." They also allow adults to be big kids.
Other stores don't provide the selection of collectible comics available at Karran's, 4,000 to 5,000, the owner said. Issues date to Archie and Daffy Duck, as well as today's Black Panther.
And then there are the collectibles. Buyers currently are in love with "Pops," or bobbleheads.
"Pops are the new fad," Karran said, replacing fidget spinners, which were No. 1 as recently as two months ago. His Pops collection numbers more than 500, and includes sports and movie stars, cartoon characters and famous people. New models start at $7.
"Stocks are always changing. I'm always adding," said Karran, who also buys and trades. Bobbleheads autographed by their namesakes sell for about $100. A rare Batman bobblehead commanded $600.
"The collectability of it drives the price," said Johnson.
And there are statues, table-top polyresin renditions of Catwoman, Poison Ivy, Harley Quinn and Disney characters, from $30.
Model cars and trucks range from Matchbook-sized "Hot Wheels" to die-cast muscle cars and original metal Tonka toys. Die-casts aren't toys, Johnson insisted. Starting at $20, they're for grown-up boys.
People can buy these items online, Karran said, but people still like his shop.
"Kids love to look at it on site," he said. "They can come in here and handle and work it if they want. And there's something about walking out of the store with it in their hand."
"My prices are competitive, and they aren't firm," he added. "You won't find that online."
Karran admitted he bought the shop because his wife, Ann Karran, figuratively kicked his possessions out.
"She wanted her garage back," he said.
The cheek-by-jowl inventory is part of the shop's allure. Customers are wowed to see how much he's packed in.
Contact Beth Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org.